Baylor Percussion Group showcases unique flair with close-up performance

Mckinney freshman Bradley Jensen performs his part of "The Song of Queztecoatl" by Lou Harrison. Baylee VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

By Cassidy Pate | Reporter

The Baylor and Waco community got up close and personal with the Baylor Percussion Group as they experienced the ensemble’s concert in a new location: on stage.

14 percussion students and two faculty members made it a night of diverse sounds that rattled the stage of Jones Concert Hall on Wednesday night. The group incorporated unique instruments and musical selections ranging from the 1940s and 1950s to newer, more popular music.

Lou Harrison, assistant professor of percussion and director of the Baylor Percussion Group, and Dr. Todd Meehan set the tone for the future of percussion ensembles, composing three of the six song selections of the night.

The concert began with a trio, “Trio in a Rudimental Style,” by Joe Tomkins and performed by three women of the Baylor Percussion Group.

Meehan followed this beginning number by saying the group has a legacy of breaking down the barriers between performers and audience members in order to offer an experience that listeners might not receive at a typical classical music concert.

McKinney freshman Berkeley Sheppard attended the concert and said she appreciated the close proximity.

“I enjoyed that a lot; it’s definitely more interactive and you get to hear more of the undertones and the overtones that are occurring,” Sheppard said. “…It’s very cool to be able to interact with everything.”

The seating arrangement was not the only unique portion of the concert. Meehan said percussion concerts are often diverse in that every piece offers something a little bit different.

This held true for the group’s performance as they transitioned from old to newer music selections and their instruments changed, too.

Although they do use standard percussion choices such as tom-toms, snare drums and cymbals, Meehan said they use brake drums from cars, tin cans, almglocken, or German cowbells, an assortment of gongs from Asia, a whistle siren and more to display music in a newfound way.

As the concert continued, no more than four students performed together at a time. The entire concert went along without a conductor, which is another unique characteristic of the Baylor Percussion Group.

Meehan said the navigation of incredibly difficult music without the assistance of a conductor is the essence of true chamber music.

San Antonio graduate student and graduate assistant Bryce Turner described the group as “driven,” while Meehan described the group as “dynamic.”

“The group is very driven and they all strive to really bring out the music that they want [and] that they hear in their heads to make it a reality,” Turner said.

Turner added that the Baylor Percussion Group has a vibe of becoming the best rather than already being the best. This willingness to learn creates a higher standard for themselves and as a group.

With only 16 spots allowed in the percussion department and the Baylor Percussion Group filling most of them, the concert embraced the group’s tenacity for their percussion skills.

“There’s a lot of good players here, so it really tests my will as a player to get better to keep up with these guys,” Turner said.

For a closer look inside the Baylor Percussion Group, click here.

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